Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England, who, at age 93 has held the throne for over sixty-five years – the longest reign of any monarch in history. With the majority of British subjects supporting the British Monarchy (including 77% of Brits over the age of 55), it seems the Royal Family’s public is as adoring as it is loyal. But in an era that increasingly values merit over birth (even Prince Will married middle-class Kate and Prince Harry married former actress Meghan Markle, who’s not only American but also Catholic and a divorcee), the very concept of a monarchy seems outdated at best and positively inegalitarian at worst. So, is the British Monarchy a worthwhile institution or an unnecessary relic of times long gone?
Here are three arguments in support of the British Monarchy and three against it.
God Save The Queen!
The Royal Family unifies the British masses and others across the world.
As an a-political figurehead (even in the heated times of Brexit), The Queen, and by extension, the Royal Family, unite Great Britain around principles that transcend day-to-day politics, highlighting shared history and values, and contributing to societal cohesion. This unifying effect stretches long beyond the UK’s borders to the 2.2 billion subjects of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary union of 54 nations dedicated to shared values like democracy and human rights. Headed by Queen Elizabeth II, the Commonwealth unites countries in history and trade, and provides a friendly platform to hold member states to high civic standards.
The Royal Family provides assurance in uncertain times.
In times of upheaval, the English have always leaned on the Monarchy as a symbol of security in a changing world. Queen Elizabeth II’s 1952 coronation provides an excellent example. While Great Britain was recovering from the ravages of WWII, a country whose citizens were living on rations held an outsized ceremony to commemorate their new queen. In the Queen’s prosperity, the people of England see their own prosperity, and the coronation a shining symbol of English perseverance. Moreover, there is something profoundly comforting in knowing that if the state’s political institutions go berserk, there is a stateswoman or statesman prepared to take the reins. And not just any stateswoman – one whose entire family legacy hinges on her subjects’ prosperity.
The Royal Family is a boon to the United Kingdom’s economy.
Step aside, James Bond, the Windsor family is the UK’s most popular and marketable brand. Be it weddings or births, the world is constantly watching as the Windsor family expands and even, as of recently, surprisingly gets smaller. The prestige and popularity of the Royal Family earns the UK plenty of PR that drives tourism and business. Estimates from the British Tourism Council surmise that the Windsor family, worth an estimated $88 billion, generates over $770 million in tourist spending annually. Additionally, the family’s milestones (such as the recent first birthday of Prince Louis, Prince William’s youngest, or the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the birth of their firstborn son, Archie) spur adjacent industries – injecting the economy with hundreds of millions of extra dollars from Britons eager to participate in the festivities – and the profits from their agricultural holdings are deposited into the public’s coffers.
Magna Carta Her Out of Here!
Monarchy is unfair to monarchs.
Being born a prince or princess is very much an accident of birth. But is it a happy one? Imagine a life where your every movement was carefully watched and judged, where you were forbidden to have political conversations, and where you might not even be with the person you loved. To put it bluntly, the life of Royals is dictated by tradition and expectation; they don’t enjoy the same basic freedoms as their subjects. The UK has long passed the necessity of an absolute ruler. It stands to reason that, if the royals’ role in the governance of their society is largely ceremonial, then English society would be generous to release them of this burden, as Prince Harry and Meghan have attempted to do.
The Royal Family ties England to a dark past that is best left behind.
Sure, the majority of Britons express favor for the Queen. Of course, speaking against the Monarchy is technically an offense that can be punishable by life in prison. Laws like the aforementioned Treason Felony Act reveal the pernicious nature of the British Monarchy’s past, and to an extent, its present. Monarchies have long survived on the bread and blood of their subjects, whom they regularly plundered and sent to wars on their behalf. Add to this the English Crown’s long history of Colonialism – its subjugation and pilfering of nearly a quarter of the planet’s resources – and reveal a wholly inhumane enterprise. Is an institution that thrives upon degradation really an appropriate centerpiece of national pride?
Monarchy is expensive.
Weighed against the cost of security, travel, and yearly pensions (even for extended family!), the Royal Family’s revenues are not quite as bountiful as they seem. The Royal Family cost taxpayers in the United Kingdom $86 million in 2018/19 – a 41% increase over the previous year. That’s quite a price tag for figureheads in a country strapped with over $2 trillion in debt. Arguably, this money could be put to better use to improve the nation’s ailing healthcare system, or spent on schools.
The Bottom Line: The Monarchy is English society’s most exquisite display of romanticism – at once representing the grandness of the past and the promise of the future. However, it is both expensive to uphold and may be trapping the British in a past they no longer connect with. Do you think the British Monarchy should be preserved, or is it time for a change?